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Momma

I don’t think you’ve met this girl yet. Part of a forthcoming book.


As usual people look, but no one says anything. Hippies are tolerated here, even the naked one. Momma treads on her silent bare feet unobtrusively, somehow looking modest and deferential, always nodding with eye contact, smiling, careful not to walk in a way that draws attention to her breasts, her pubic hair, her butt. Today she is in town with Manfred to get a few things at Ray’s and check the mail. They rent a post office box because there is a lot of confusion about the street address. The key is tied to her hair. She used to tie the money pouch to her hair too, but it’s easier to use if it’s down in front. Supported by a string around her neck, it hangs between her breasts, bouncing along with them.


Ray likes to hug people in general, so his embrace of Momma as she leaves with the new vegetable strainer is taken in stride, though she humors him with a jokey gesture of lifting her leg back and wiggling her upturned toes. After a short conversation out on the sidewalk with Mr. and Mrs. DiMartino, who are still enthusing about her performance before the Board of Appeals, they go into the post office where they go in back and say a brief hi to Sofa, who works there.


In to the vestibule with the post office boxes, under those scary “Ten Most Wanted” photos. It’s usually Momma and Manfred who check the mail, sometimes Frodo. Sarajane went exactly once, and found out she bears an unfortunate resemblance to one of the “Most Wanted”, Katherine Ann Power, the girl with the glasses. Stone Tree Farm’s box is in the bottom row and Momma has to bend way over with her hair to use the key, with not a shred of awareness that her buttocks are separating and she is displaying her anus to public view.


This week it’s the usual four or five envelopes, all personal stuff. Mail is their method of long distance communication, what with the sack of coins needed if they try to call by pay phone. They’re smiling, thinking of their last trip here. “Hallelujah!!” Momma had screamed, abandoning her usual in-town diffidence. It was from Montreal, a letter from Soul Man (and return addressed as such)! He had made it! Free! She jumped up and down, breasts bouncing, money pouch hitting her chin. Everyone over at the stamp counter heard the joyous slapping of bare feet on the cold tile. Back at the house Umma set up a “peace prayer circle” that night in celebration and they all sent their “energy” to him, 400 miles away. Prayers, of course, easily jump over borders.


Today is different though. Manfred notices the knitted brow. “What’s wrong?”


“It’s from the Prof. Look - it says ‘important’.”


Later, back in their bed, which also serves as their desk, they unfold the four-page letter, written in the Prof’s usual archaic calligraphy, but it’s just a chatty summary of how everyone is doing down at Coal Tree Farm, in Pennsylvania. The place is more or less a sister commune; they drive there every couple of months or so, and people move there and back. They wonder why the Prof wrote “important” on the envelope and then they’re struck by the last sentence -- “Momma, please visit me,” underlined.


“This cannot be good,” Manfred says.


Momma says, “I’ll need the van. I’ll go tomorrow.”


At dinner she tells everyone, as blandly as possible, that she wants to visit Coal Tree.


In bed that night Manfred says, “Can I come along with you?” Momma sees this as another of the conflicting signals she’s been getting from him lately. He has been casting noticeable glances in Umma’s direction. They’re both about ten years older than Momma and she sometimes feels like an outsider in their presence. He has slept with her in the past -- will he again? Anyone can sleep with anyone here, nobody owns anyone, but by nature pairs form. They rolled their eyes at the Union Leader Sofa brought in one day, with an article about “hippie communes”, which got everything wrong of course, and where they quoted a “nymphet” saying “we fuck for fun”. And they were recently amused by a rumor that a commune in California had established a rotation calendar for coupling. They know that sex, at least the way they do it, unavoidably has an emotional component.


The system (or rather lack of a system) in use here, and at every commune they’re familiar with, is more natural. Currently Momma is sleeping with Manfred, Fortune with Sofa, and Sarajane (intermittently) with Frodo. The rest are sleeping alone, though some two to a room. Everyone is careful with diaphragms and nobody’s gotten pregnant. The unspoken word is that Bright Star and King David are attracted to each other but neither wants to acknowledge it. During the recent room reshuffle, when Sofa coyly suggested they share the big sunroom that faces the road, they both resisted strenuously, which was telling.

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